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Nepal's parliament elects communist party leader KP Oli as new prime minister

KP Oli has become the 38th prime minister of Nepal, winning by a majority vote. The communist leader faces many challenges ahead in the wake of Nepal's devastating earthquake in April and clashes with minority groups.

Khadga Prasad Oli, known as KP Oli in Nepali politics, was elected by 338 parliamentary votes, while his only competitor, outgoing Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, received 249 votes. About 14 parliamentarians refrained from voting.

"My request is that all the parties must work together and move forward in consensus," Oli had told lawmakers in an address to parliament before the vote.

The voting came about after the president had issued a directive to form a majority government, after parties had missed the October 8 deadline to form a national unity government, as set out in the new constitution dating September 20. The adoption of the new constitution triggered

deadly protests

and

a stifling border blockade

.

Nepal's parliament includes 31 parties. Fourteen of them threw their weight behind Oli, making his nomination possible. But Oli would have to try to bring together clashing factions to fulfill his vision of ensuring "national unity, consensus and national development."

Challenges ahead

The current government faces accusations of stalling on rebuilding since the

earthquake that killed nearly 8,900 people

and left more than half a million homeless in April.

Government protests in Nepal

Nepal's minorities took to the streets after a new constitution was rushed through parliament, leading to 40 deaths

Oli said his immediate focus would be on Nepal's ongoing post-earthquake reconstruction and to sort out the prolonged anti-constitution strikes in the south of the country. Nepal has been facing

severe fuel shortages

caused by a trade embargo allegedly imposed by India in the face of violent protests in the south by the Madheshi and Tharu communities.

"There are groups that are dissatisfied with the constitution, we have to address their demands," he said. The introduction of a constitution was aimed at bolstering the Himalayan country's transformation to a peaceful democracy after decades of political instability and a civil war.

Peace with India

Oli has been vocal in the past about denouncing alleged meddling by India in Nepal's internal affairs, including closing its border as part of the trade embargo in order to pressure Kathmandu to amend the country's new constitution. His stance made him a favorite among the parties in parliament for premier.

Gas station in Nepal

A trade embargo with India has led to fuel shortages, halting the rebuilding process

The new prime minister will have to quell the continuing protests over the new constitution and end the blockade which has led to nationwide fuel rationing. But the Madheshi and Tharu communities have signaled little to no willingness to cooperate.

As trucks remained stuck at the border with India following the ethnic clashes, long lines have continued to form at gas stations across Nepal, stalling the country's rebuilding efforts after the earthquake.

Illustrious career in communist party

Born in eastern Nepal on February 22, 1952, Oli was educated in the Jhapa region, where he became influenced by local communist leaders as a teenager. In 1970, Oli became a member of the Nepal Communist Party and began an underground life, as the erstwhile royal regime began cracking down on communism. He was arrested on and off and spent 14 years in prisons in different parts of the country during the 1970s and 80s.

Nepal after the earthquake

Nepal is still reeling from the devastating earthquake in April, which killed almost 9,000 people

Oli was released in 1987, and became a key member of the Nepal Communist Party-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML).

He then won elections to parliament in 1991, 1999, 2008 and 2013. Oli served as home minister in 1994 and foreign minister in 2007. In February 2014, his party elected him chairman, leading to his eventual success in the parliamentary elections.

Oli's political career has also been punctuated by his poor health, which has put him in hospital several times, though his party has never clearly stated the real cause of his illness.

ss/jlw (AFP, dpa)

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